First Aid Lifesaving Steps - Arriving on the scene of an accident
Please note that this information does not qualify you as an official first aider, and Virtual College advise calling 999 in the first instance at the scene of an emergency.
This material and any associated assessments do not constitute a qualification or accreditation as an official first aider. All content provided is for general information only.
Virtual College advocate dialling the emergency services before attempting any form of first aid.
What to Do If You’re First on the Scene of An Accident
Whether it’s a road traffic incident or a workplace mishap, the chances are that the first person to arrive on the scene of an accident will not be a trained professional, but a member of the general public. Regardless, they are still critical to the outcome, and the recovery of any casualties. If you find yourself in such a situation, then there are clear and straightforward steps that you can follow to do your part.
Many first aid authorities use the initialism DR. ABC to help people remember the process that those first on the scene should go through. The five steps are Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing and Circulation. In this article, we’re going to go through each one, in addition to a couple of other steps that you may find useful. Whether you’re wondering what to do when someone is knocked unconscious, or what to do after an accident involving a vehicle, much of the following will help you have a positive impact on the situation.
Step 1: Identify and Mitigate Potential Dangers
The hazard involved in the accident is potentially still a danger to the casualty, other people, and you as a first responder. As a result, it’s imperative that you ensure the area is safe before you take any further steps, or begin giving aid to the casualty. Use your own judgement and common sense to make the area safe. If you’re attending a road traffic incident, then this may mean attempting to block traffic, or if a machine is involved you should switch it off.
Step 2: Call for Help
Accidents are far easier to deal with, and are more likely to result in a positive outcome, if you are not alone in dealing with them. If appropriate, shout for help in order to have other people arrive on the scene to help you with clearing obstructions, calling the emergency services, or giving first aid to other casualties. However, you should not leave the scene to get help until you have determined the condition of any casualties.
Step 3: Check for a Response
Your priority is now to deal with the casualty, and the first step in this process is to establish the severity of their condition. Check to see if they are responsive by firstly talking to them loudly and clearly, to see if you receive a reply. If you do not, then you can carefully shake their shoulders, or give their earlobe a short pinch. If you suspect a severe bodily injury, then an earlobe pinch is the safest option.
Should you fail to receive a response at this point, you should move onto step 3. If there are multiple casualties, any that are unresponsive must take priority.
Step 3: Check the Casualty’s Airway
Ensuring the airway is open and clear is the first step in keeping the casualty in the most stable condition possible.
If the casualty is responsive, then help them to clear their own airway if necessary. If the casualty has been determined to be unresponsive, then you will need to manually place them into a position that ensures the airway is open. In an unresponsive adult:
- Gently place your hand on the casualty’s forehead, and tilt the head backwards, which will help to open the mouth
- Using two fingers of your other hand, lift the chin to help create an unobstructed airway
Note: If you suspect that the casualty has a spinal injury, then you should avoid tilting their head back. Instead, you should use the jaw thrust method, whereby you use two hands to carefully lift their jaw.
Step 4: Check the Casualty’s Breathing
Once you have established that the casualty has an unobstructed airway, you need to determine if they are breathing normally. This can be done through several means:
- Listen to their chest and mouth to see if you can hear the casualty breathing
- Watch to see if the chest rises and falls normally
- Feel for breaths being taken by placing your cheek beside the casualty’s mouth
If the casualty is not breathing, then you, or another person on the scene, must call 999 immediately. You should then begin giving chest compressions and, if confident, rescue breaths, in accordance with CPR best practice. For more information, please read our article on the subject here.
Step 5: Check the Casualty’s Circulation
The final step in the primary survey is to identify any major bleeding. If they are, then you should attempt to control it by applying pressure with your fingers and/or clothing. If a limb is wounded, then raising it above heart level will help to reduce the flow of blood. If you can stop the bleeding at the scene of an accident, you can also help prevent the casualty from going into shock.
Once you’ve made efforts to control the bleeding, you or another person on the scene must then immediately call 999 and request medical assistance. Remain with any casualties until professional medical attention arrives, following the process of controlling any bleeding, or CPR depending on the situation. If the casualty is currently responsive, then it is helpful to find out more details about the accident - this will help the emergency services when they arrive, particularly if the casualty falls unconscious before they do.
To find out more about the professional training that we can deliver on this subject, please visit our dedicated primary survey page.